Underrated galloper Shadows Cast gave his rivals weight and a beating when he took out the prestigious Gr.1 Harcourts Thorndon Mile (1600m) at Trentham on Saturday.
Owned by local identity Ron Cunningham, Shadows Cast started at outside odds in the time-honoured event despite boasting a last-start win at Group Two level on his home track at Awapuni.
A comfortable win over 1200m at the Foxton trials earlier in the week had the Mark Oulaghan-trained six-year-old cherry ripe for his assignment and he delivered in fine style, courtesy of a gem of a ride from Jason Waddell.
Waddell bounced Shadows Cast quickly from his outside barrier to dispute the early speed with Cambridge visitor The Mitigator before finding an easy rhythm on the pace. Shadows Cast issued his challenge early in the run home with Waddell driving him clear before defying a late charge from Wyndspelle to collect his first Group One prize.
Cunningham, who has been a stalwart of the Trentham track during his years as a trainer at the venue, was full of emotion when speaking about the victory after the race.
“I’ve had some nice horses and trained a few good ones, but nothing beats a Group One win,” he said.
“I rated him quite highly today based on his trial on Tuesday. Darryl Bradley rode him there and gave me a lot of confidence.
“I’ve been in the game a long time and have quite a few around me, but this means a great deal.”
Although Oulaghan has always believed his charge was capable of winning at the highest level he was full of satisfaction with the Per Incanto gelding’s performance to overcome the wide barrier and 58kg impost for the race.
“I thought at that weight it was a pretty fair run because it is a long way down the Wellington straight,” he said.
“I thought if we got him in the right race, with the right conditions, I thought he was up to winning a Group One.
“His last run was very good and probably the best of his career, so he has followed on from there.
“He was a little bit erratic earlier on, but with a little bit of time he has really grown up and come to it as a racehorse.”
The victory made it ten wins from 33 starts for Shadows Cast who has now amassed over $423,000 in stakes earnings. Included amongst his career record are wins in the Gr.2 Manawatu Challenge Stakes (1400m) and the Gr.2 Coupland’s Bakeries Mile (1600m).
The victory also made it a Group One double for Little Avondale Stud stallion Per Incanto in recent weeks after Santa Monica took out the Sistema Railway (1200m) at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day.